US comedian Josh Wolf wonders why many of his peers take themselves so seriously but admits it took him time to feel comfortable telling his own silly stories.
The laidback Los Angeles-based Boston native will make his New Zealand debut in Sunday's group performance of the Best Comedy Show On Earth, before a run of solo shows in Auckland and Wellington, both as part of the NZ International Comedy Festival.
Wolf brings with him more than two decades of stand-up experience, during which he also lent his comedic skills to acting, writing, and presenting, along the path to becoming one of America's most in-demand funny guys.
The 44-year-old avoids trying to intellectualise his comedy and makes no apologies for embracing the absurd and ridiculous in his live shows.
Punters can expect a combination of hilarious true-life tales – often embarrassing members of his family – and guitar-based song jokes.
"I always ask my friends, 'why do you take your comedy so seriously?'," Wolf explains.
"Sometimes people just want to walk into a dark room and laugh and forget about what's out there so that's what I try to provide.
"My brand of comedy is not about politics or social issues – it's let's have some silly fun together and have a good time. I play guitar in my act so there will be some silly songs.
"If you're looking for someone to tell some fun, ridiculous stories about their own life that's super relatable, that's what you're going to see."
Kiwis are well acquainted with musical comics, from the likes of the late great Billy T. James to the contemporary duo from Flight of the Conchords.
But the blend of guitar-comedy is not so prevalent in the US, and for a long time peer pressure saw Wolf resist the urge to strum on-stage.
"I always wanted to play guitar, I just never did because I was nervous," he said.
"I know the way guitar comics are looked at in our community and I wanted the respect of my peers more than I was willing to be myself.
"I always fought my instincts and what felt more natural, to try to be a little more biting.
"As soon as I brought the guitar out it changed everything, it changed the fun in my set. As soon as I've started to speak more of my truth it's been way better.
"People leave my shows now feeling like 'well, that was an actual show'."
As an industry veteran that has worked alongside the likes of Chelsea Handler and acted in television sitcoms such as Home Improvement and My Name Is Earl, Wolf is excited and content with the direction of his career.
"Everything's starting to fit. The fact that I feel more comfortable and am more honest on-stage than I've ever been, and that's what's been rewarded, feels really good and makes me really excited to see what's going to happen next."
As a fan of the great outdoors, he hopes to explore the country in between shows, but just how much of that he manages will depend on how much he enjoys himself after his performances.
"As a comic, downtime mostly means afternoons, depending on how early we want to wake up, and that all depends on how much tequila I have the night before.
"If I can cut down a little on the tequila I'll be able to enjoy the country more."
• Josh Wolf will make his New Zealand debut in the Best Comedy Show On Earth and perform a run of solo shows, as part of the NZ International Comedy Festival. For more information see www.comedyfestival.co.nz